The events that took place on the night of Monday, March 27, at a National Institute of Migration (NIM) center, in which 40 migrants died, highlight the migratory crisis and the repressive policies of the Mexican and U.S. governments, especially when their first reaction was to blame the migrants who set fire to mattresses and trash in an attempt to impede the NIM’s deportation efforts.
by Corriente Socialista de los Trabajadores (Mexico) and Workers’ Voice (U.S.A.)
What is Migration?
Migration is the changing of one’s residence to someplace other than where one was born. Although there is internal migration (within a country, often from the countryside to the city), the news media usually refers to external or international migration, that is, migrating outside one’s country of origin.
Although there is voluntary migration, forced migration is the most common and unfortunately the one that attracts the most press coverage. This is because the mobilizations of migrant groups are frequently large and motivated by precarity and desperation, and sadly often end in tragedies such as the one that took place on March 27.
Mexico has become a crossing point for thousands of migrants seeking to travel to the U.S. and historically has had to establish specific immigration policies. All Mexican governments to a greater or lesser extent have perceived and yielded to U.S. pressure that forces them to contain the migratory desires of workers from semi-colonial countries with more precarious socioeconomic and/or political conditions.
Many people think that those who decide to migrate to the U.S. are simply seeking to live the so-called “American dream.” They sometimes label them as traitors to their people or suggest that they seek to earn a good living without working hard, but these ideas don’t represent a true reflection of what motivates people to migrate in the first place.
Although people not only migrate to the U.S., but also to other countries such as Mexico, Brazil, or Chile, for example, we will concentrate on explaining the migratory phenomenon that has had as its destination the world’s superpower up to this point.
Since the end of World War II when Europe was devastated and its reconstruction depended on U.S. aid, the so-called “American dream” has permeated as an ideology imposed by various means. If this has been the case with old Europe, it has been even more so with Latin America, which has suffered from the Monroe Doctrine and the treatment of the region as if it were the U.S.’s backyard since the 19th century.
Films, commercial propaganda, and policies imposed on the countries of the region bear the mark of gringo cultural imposition, in particular with the embellishment of stories and images of how good life is in “America.”
When we contrast this with the constant crises in our countries, condemned to be suppliers of raw materials and cheap labor to satisfy the desire for the wealth of large corporations, we will find precarious jobs, poor or no education, chronic diseases, poor medical services, high inflation, low wages, and shortages of basic necessities, in addition to the constant failures of water, electricity, gas, telephone services, etc.
Finally, chronic unemployment forces people to “start a business,” a fashionable phrase that uses the language of entrepreneurship to describe those who set up small businesses to survive (a small table with coffee and cigars or walking the aisles of the subway selling snacks and trinkets), with the result that 90% fail to stabilize an “enterprise.”
Many get used to it or resign themselves to it. Others leave to seek to improve their situation, sometimes fleeing a real or potential threat from neighborhood gang members or the government. All this leads to the emergence of precarious neighborhoods, without services for poor people who have nowhere to live, where drugs and violence spread.
Some of these same people have heard carefully chosen or fabricated stories of how well someone did in the U.S., and often they join with others to support each other and migrate. Most do it by land precisely because of the lack of resources that made them leave their country in the first place. And when they leave their country, where they were born, they leave family, experiences, and memories, betting on a promise that no one made them, except the sinister guides who take advantage of the need to organize death caravans or the sale of girls into the international sex trade, or of young men in the slave trade (Yes, slavery still exists, disguised as unpayable debts!). Many risk their lives so as not to perish in their country of origin. It sounds contradictory, but they leave a reality they have lived for a possible stroke of luck with all the potential threats that come with it. The irony of imperialism is that the intervention of U.S. corporations in Latin American countries has unleashed environmental destruction and economic underdevelopment that encourages migration to the North.
AMLO’S IMMIGRATION POLICY: SERVILE TO THE WISHES OF THE NORTHERN MASTER
The caravans that have historically crossed Mexico from South to North have made the country a transit zone since their goal is the arrival to the United States and the “American dream.”
The U.S. in its hypocrisy, tightens or loosens immigration measures depending on whether or not cheap labor is needed. Therefore they allow entry when they loosen restrictions but do not provide legality to those who cross the border. And it is the very illegality that creates the opportunity to offer precarious wages in precarious jobs. Under the shadow of the threat of deportation, the most infamous acts of labor abuse have been and will likely continue to be committed. In December 2022, Reuters reported that several car factories in the U.S. have been employing children under 14 years of age. This nightmare could occur (and in all likelihood will remain so) only because of the legal precariousness faced by immigrants in the so-called “land of their dreams.”
Precarity increases even more due to the steady stream of xenophobic polemics published by the conservative media, which leave immigrants in a situation where they are not only subject to labor abuse and threats from police and I.C.E. but are also threatened by racist violence.
Therefore, the U.S. Government, under Biden as well as Trump and previous presidents, has pressured AMLO to contain the migratory flow, who as a result has developed a policy of containment to fulfill the wishes of his Northern master. The result of this has been the systemic violation of migrants’ human rights. Apart from deceiving migrants on the southern bank of the Rio Grande so that they temporarily desist from trying to cross the border and submit to a census, the dozens of “shelters” that were created for migrants have no other objective than to deport them and return them to their country without any opportunity to improve their situation.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN CIUDAD JUAREZ?
The media explained that most of the deceased were from Central America (18 from Guatemala, 7 from El Salvador, 7 from Venezuela, 6 from Honduras, and one from Colombia). Many indirectly blamed the migrants for the tragedy. We want to highlight key two aspects related to what occurred:
Why did the migrants’ protest escalate to the point of setting mattresses and garbage on fire?
Immigration had threatened to deport them. Apart from the silence and the disregard with which their requests for non-deportation were met, the lack of other options and the mistreatment of the migrants by government officials, who treated them like criminals, made them take desperate action to get attention.
Why was there a door that locked them in and that government officials did not open, thus preventing their evacuation and rescue?
Fifty-seven percent of the migrants died (39 out of 68) from asphyxiation and inhalation of toxic gases. If we consider the injured (17) and add them to the deceased, the act of not opening the door and allowing the migrants to evacuate affected 82% of those in the shelter.
These are the consequences of having migrants imprisoned as if they were criminals. While capital and investment dollars have no borders, and all governments seek ways to open their doors to them, migrants in precarious situations are treated as criminals and insurmountable walls are built to keep them out.
When AMLO lashes out at those who started the fire and does not stop to think that the massacre could have been avoided by simply opening the doors, he becomes a co-conspirator in a policy that views precarious and forced migrants as subhuman and criminal. When AMLO, unable to deny the evidence of the fateful fact of leaving migrants locked up, lashes out at the shelter staff and says nothing about the policy of locking up migrants, he reiterates that same position of treating migrants like garbage.
THE OPPRESSION IS JUST AS HARSH NORTH OF THE BORDER
Immigrants detained inside the U.S. also suffer inhumane conditions in detention centers. The situation has been so dire that immigrants incarcerated at the Golden State Annex and Mesa Verde in California have launched a hunger strike supported by comrades from Workers’ Voice and community organizations. The xenophobic policy against migrants represents an international threat; therefore, the response to overcome it must also be international. Colonial capitalism stole indigenous lands and imposed borders to guarantee its profits: only by confronting the injustices of capitalism, imperialism, and colonization will it be possible to end the violence of borders.
WHAT IS THE WAY OUT?
We, in Corriente Socialista de los Trabajadores (C.S.T.) and Workers’ Voice, Mexican and U.S. sections of the International Workers League – Fourth International (IWL-FI), echo the denunciation made by various organizations: we hold the AMLO government responsible for these deaths and demand the closure of the detention centers to put an end to the immigration containment policy formulated by the U.S. and followed by the servile Mexican government.
We believe that the problem must be seen globally and that the reasons why migrants flee their countries are a consequence of the actions of the capitalist system, specifically the actions of transnational corporations and the U.S. government. Therefore, as long as the U.S. government and its corporations manage the world economy at will, plundering the wealth of our people and condemning our workers to servitude and semi-slavery, there will always be sectors in our countries that face desperate situations. Their families embark on a journey full of threats and uncertainty, where the only certainty is the misery they leave behind.
Mexican workers have family members and acquaintances who have migrated to the U.S. We are familiar with the situation. Therefore, we should not pretend that the situation has nothing to do with us.
Apart from the necessary material and moral solidarity with those who have direct contact with us, we must organize protest actions against the tragedies of migrants and the policies that generate them. We must demand that unions force companies, mainly those coming from the North, to open employment quotas for migrants and encourage the regularization of their legal status and incorporate migrants into unions with full rights.
We must organize worker solidarity on both sides of the border. Only through a government of workers and the oppressed, the real creators of society’s wealth, can we build a system without social classes and privileges, and create an economy planned democratically from below that meets the daily needs of all peoples.